Canadian family law

Divorce versus separation

Posted on by Behdad Hosseini
Divorce versus separation

Divorce versus separation

If you think families can be complicated, the laws surrounding family — or family law — can be extremely complicated to navigate for the average person. Even the Canadian government, which provides various resources on the topic of family law, suggests people should consult a good family lawyer before dealing with the law.

The law affects everyone

Nevertheless, knowledge always helps. It is probably rare for anyone not to be touched by family law these days, whether it’s regarding issues of child or spousal abuse, custody, etc. Today, more than ever, people are somehow impacted by issues that come under some provision of Canadian or provincial family law (which is a shared jurisdiction in this country).

This reality is probably most true regarding issues of separation and divorce. What exactly are they? Or, more accurately, how does the law differentiate between the two? What are the legal definitions of each, the practical differences, as well as the consequences of choosing one over the other?

The legal difference

Under Canadian law, a divorce occurs when a court officially ends a marriage. A couple needs to be legally married first before they can get a divorce. Separation, on the other hand, occurs when a couple decides to live apart as a result of a breakdown in the relationship.

For a separation to occur, the couple can either be legally married, or they can be unmarried but living together as though they were married, which happens in a common-law relationship. In Ontario, spouses are defined as separated when there is no reasonable chance that they will live together again.

Differences after breakup

A couple can remain separated for the duration of their lives. However, a person can’t remarry until a divorce is obtained. Separation agreements or orders can help settle common issues that come under family law, such as child custody and support, spousal support, etc. A couple does not have to obtain a divorce to have these matters settled.

However, a formal divorce will most certainly ensure that these arrangements are made and settled. Divorces also tend to sever formal legal ties that once existed with a couple. For example, shared medical or insurance plans will usually no longer be valid after a divorce. Similarly, estates are far less likely to pass from one former spouse to another upon completion of a divorce.

If you need a professional advice on family law, or if you’re thinking of divorce, please phone us here at Hosseini Law Firm (HLF) for a 15 minute free consultation: 416-628-4635, or please use the contact form provided on this page. Thank you. 



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